The Extent Of A Cat's Olfactory Abilities: A Guide To A Feline's Sense Of Smell

The Extent Of A Cat's Olfactory Abilities: A Guide To A Feline's Sense Of Smell

A cat’s olfactory prowess is amazing, with a sense of smell that surpasses us humans by approximately 14 times, and scientific research concerning the olfactory abilities of felines continues to be ongoing.

According to scientific estimates, cats possess the ability to detect the scent of food up to 50 metres away. This remarkable sense of smell might explain why your feline companion often hurries to its food bowl even before you've had the chance to place the food in it.

It is also known that feline noses possess a concealed natural wonder, and that is that all cats are equipped with a dual scent detecting mechanism.

The Impressive Nature Of A Cat's Sense of Smell

It is thought that cats can discern specific chemicals or odours over great distances, and that they recognise and process pheromones in a distinct manner compared to other chemicals, and it is known that cats possess an exceptionally robust sense of smell, due to their abundance of olfactory tissue and diverse array of receptors.

Felines are equipped with two main organs that collaboratively function at a sensory level, enabling them to perceive various scents and chemicals in their surroundings. Firstly, there's the olfactory epithelium, which coats the passageways at the nose's entrance. Secondly, there's the vomeronasal organ, also known as Jacobson's organ. The vomeronasal organ serves the role of detecting pheromones, not just those emitted by other cats, but also from a diverse range of species, whether they are potential predators or prey for the cat.

How Does A Cat's Sense Of Smell Differ From That Of A Human?

A cat's sense of smell surpasses that of a human by a considerable margin. While the human olfactory system holds around five to six million receptors, cats possess an impressive count of up to 200 million receptors, making their olfactory capabilities approximately 14 times more acute than that of our own.

Moreover, cats excel in differentiating between various scents. The scent receptor accountable for this task is known as the V1R receptor. Studies have revealed that humans possess merely two of these receptors, whereas cats boast a remarkable tally of about 30.

How Do Cats Utilise Their Sense Of Smell?

While we might presume that cats primarily rely on their sense of smell to detect the aroma of food, they also leverage their olfactory prowess for a myriad of other purposes, which include communication and the detection of potential threats. These include:

Locating And Inspecting Their Food

Cats rely on their sense of smell from the instant they come into the world. During the initial hours after birth, they employ scent to locate their mother and the source of their nourishment, being mother’s milk. This olfactory ability persists throughout their lives as they utilise their noses to locate sustenance and subsequently ascertain its safety before consumption.

Communicating And Establishing Territory

Cats engage in a diverse range of communication methods both among themselves and with others. Through vocalisations and the deliberate act of slow blinking, our feline companions consistently convey messages. Additionally, they strategically release pheromones as cues to interact with fellow cats.

Locating A Partner

During their heat period, female cats emit distinct pheromones that male cats in the vicinity can perceive, and a male cat might detect these pheromones from distances of over a kilometre away.

Sensing Potential Threats

Felines utilise their exceptional sense of smell to perceive the presence of nearby predators and to track down their potential prey. Cats are adept at detecting not only the pheromones emitted by fellow cats, but also those of other predators and their potential prey.

How Does A Cat’s Sense Of Smell Compare To Their Other Senses?

Now that we're aware of the substantial powers of a cat’s sense of smell, we can look at their other senses:


Cats possess the remarkable ability to perceive a wide spectrum of sounds across various decibel levels, granting them one of the most extensive auditory ranges among mammals. Moreover, they can dynamically adjust the orientation of their ears to precisely determine the source of sounds.


A cat's visual acuity falls short of human standards, as their eyes are specialised for tracking the movements of their prey. Although they excel in low-light conditions, their overall visual acumen doesn't match our own. Cats do perceive colours - albeit not with the vibrancy that we experience - and their peripheral vision slightly surpasses ours, and, while their depth perception may not be as precise as humans', it still outperforms that of other carnivorous species.


A cat's sense of touch is very refined. This is particularly evident in their whiskers, which are deeply rooted in their skin and serve as valuable tools to gather information about their environment. These whiskers adeptly detect objects ahead and to the sides of their bodies, safeguarding their eyes and enhancing their awareness of obstacles in dim lighting.

And the hair covering a cat's body contains a significant concentration of nerve endings. These nerve endings are linked to their responsive system and play a role in soothing them when they're being petted or engaging in affectionate interactions with other cats.


Cats possess around 500 taste buds, in contrast to our 9,000. This lower number leads them to place more emphasis on their sense of smell rather than taste when it comes to consuming food. Additionally, cats lack the capability to perceive sweet flavours.

A Sense Of Smell Really Is Incredible

Through the advancement of our innovative S.M.A.R.T. Scent™ technology, our aim is to cater to the inherent instincts of various animals, including cats. Presently, we are in the process of creating scent-centric products for the pet industry. Our products for canine companions - Schnuzzle - is already in development, and we are actively exploring and evaluating cat-specific offerings as well.

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